WWE went rolling right on through the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, last night (Sun., Jan. 26, 2014) with Royal Rumble, its annual beginning of the year pay-per-view (PPV) extravaganza that officially kicks off the "Road to WrestleMania".
This one left a sour taste.
- Hacksaw Jim Duggan wore a suit to be a part of the pre-show panel alongside Josh Matthews, Ric Flair, and Shawn Michaels. And you know what? He was significantly better than the rest of the group. Maybe I just found him charming, like that lovable goofy uncle who never seemed to grow up that exists in every family.
- I kind of sort of thought it was possible the New Age Outlaws would win the tag team titles, if only because it's so blatantly obvious WWE is ramping up nostalgia for the upcoming launch of the Network that will feature a ton of content from the Attitude Era. That content needs to be sold and bringing back a couple guys who look almost exactly the way they did during those days who can still work a relatively decent match and putting the belts on them isn't the worst idea. Still, I don't like seeing the Rhodes Brothers fall to a team of Road Dogg Jesse James and Bad Ass Billy Gunn. I just don't. Not as a mark, not as a smark, not as a critic, not in any way at all.
- Remember when Daniel Bryan asked for the singles match with Bray Wyatt? And how the sole purpose he asked for it was both because he wanted to settle the score once and for all but he wanted to do it at the Royal Rumble show because Erick Rowan and Luke Harper were entered into the Rumble match? Well these geniuses booked this as the first match on the card and HARPER AND ROWAN WERE RINGSIDE. You can't make this stuff up. Then, they booked a spot nice and early in the match that saw the referee just toss the two to the back. If the WWE creative team bothered to pay even minor attention to details like this, the product would improve by leaps and bounds. And maybe it only matters to geeks like me who do pay attention to such things, but this was bothersome for a program like this, one that has already been marred with timing issues and random audibles.
- Really enjoyed Bray Wyatt yelling to the crowd: "Why didn't you help him? WHY DIDN'T YOU HELP HIM?!?!?"
- Me thinks Wyatt showed he can actually work a solid match on a big PPV against the right opponent. He was working with Daniel freaking Bryan of all guys, but Bray was impressive last night. He finally had a strong singles encounter and we can stop worrying that he can't hang in spots like this. He absolutely can, and this proved it bbeyond a shadow of a doubt.
- I loved the way the Brock Lesnar vs. Big Show match was booked. Literally beyond glad they didn't try to let them go out and work a hard match back-and-forth. Brock has always been the rabid dog who is only ever held in check by Paul Heyman's leash. For a match like this, Heyman let it go and Lesnar went bat shit insane on Show. The takedown, the ground-n-pound, the WMD once the match actually started, and the finishing F-5 where he WALKED AROUND THE RING WITH SHOW ON HIS SHOULDERS? Loved this.
- I'm wondering if Lesnar beating on Big Show for like 15 minutes after the match was done just to convince us that Undertaker was returning just so they could not come through on it. Seemed like a really weird thing to do otherwise. I'll admit, I was disappointed "The Deadman" never showed up.
- Randy Orton calls Bray Wyatt a "Duck Dynasty reject" in an interview and I can just see the foam building at the corners of the mouths of fans everywhere. Why kill a guy with a line like that so soon after he just went over clean on the hottest wrestler in the company in an awesome match on PPV? I don't understand it either.
- Thank you, Pittsburgh, for opening the Randy Orton vs. John Cena match with a hearty Daniel Bryan chant. You could tell it was a very vocal group of fans who were doing everything they could to get it to sweep the arena, though they never quite succeeded. Still, love the attempt. Let WWE know how you feel, y'all.
- I fully support the crowd going into business for itself during the match -- and they did that in spades -- because, well, we've seen Cena vs. Orton a million times and this was one of their worst outings. It was slow, dull, and made even worse by the excitement we were feeling for the Royal Rumble match that was still to come. I didn't even feel bad for either guy when the crowd went to "end this match" and "this is awful" chants. I mean, at some point listen to your crowd. They even chanted "WE WANT DIVAS". That tells you how bad it got. The near falls were only thrilling because fans badly wanted this to be over and it just never seemed to end.
- The Royal Rumble match was ... uh ... well ... interesting? The Pittsburgh crowd cared about one thing and one thing only and that was Daniel Bryan being a part of the match. They cheered and jeered and did what they were supposed to during the first 29 entrants, but once it got to 30 and poor Rey Mysterio came running out, they turned on the match, and hard. This is equal parts perplexing and amazing. Bryan was never advertised for the match and, in fact, it was essentially plainly stated that he wouldn't be working it. Still, he's so over in front of live audiences around the country that fans would accept nothing less than not only his entering, but his winning. Batista, the eventual winner, was booed out of the building. It was not a great way to go off the air for a top returning star who is supposed to be the next babyface contender to the WWE world heavyweight title, one he's probably going to win at WrestleMania 30, again as a babyface to Randy Orton's heel. This was a bad way to go off the air and it's hard not to wonder if it will affect any plans moving forward.
Here are some quick hitter thoughts on the Rumble:
- Underwhelmed by the surprise returns, namely Kevin Nash. He had value in 2011 when he came back as Diesel, but he was a wasted spot here. His eliminaton was also an embarrassment, so much so that some thought it was a botch. Ugly either way.
- El Torito was fun and I didn't mind his inclusion at all. Actually we need more fun, campy stuff like that and the Rumble is the right place to do it.
- Sheamus is still a big enough deal that he's going to be pushed now that he's back and we're just going to have to put up with it. Sorry if you're not a fan, but he's here to stay.
- Good to see Dolph Ziggler back, which means he passed his concussion tests. That said, I don't like watching him take such monster bumps now that his history of head trauma is as extensive as it has become.
- I believe in Roman Reigns. I hope he breaks Undertaker's streak like he broke Kane's record for eliminations. He is everything good about pro wrestling, at least for this fan.
- Oh, and what was the deal with Alberto Del Rio getting dumped in a hurry? I understand he was always a stop gap, but did they literally build a mini-feud just so Batista could have someone to hit his finisher on when he returned to Raw?
Well, that was the show and it's tough to grade because of how it ended. That left a sour taste, mostly because the crowd was so upset, it was hard not to feel the same here at home. The opening tag was good, Bryan vs. Bray was outstanding, Lesnar vs. Show was solid enough, and Orton vs. Cena was awful. The Rumble just sucked the life out of all of it.
That's it from me, Cagesiders. Now it's your turn to sound off in the comments section below with all your thoughts on last night's show. How did you like it, if you liked it at all?